By Dr. Nazir Hussain
Mar 18, 2015
Pakistan is in a state of war since the Afghan invasion of 1979 and suffered immense human and material losses since then. Pakistan’s role in the ‘war on terror’ and post 9/11 regional security environment, exposed its weaknesses and vulnerabilities to the ‘inside’ enemy. The high profile attacks on Army General Headquarters, Mehran and Kamra air bases, and security establishments were not responded with the kind these required. The launch of operation Zarab-e-Azb was meant to wipe out the terrorists for once and for all, since the Government-Taliban negotiations collapsed. However, the gruesome terrorist attack on Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014, constituted an existential threat to Pakistan.
The military and civilian leadership responded effectively and conceived a consensus 20-point National Action Plan backed by the constitutional Amendment. It stipulated immediate, short and long term measures to eliminate the terrorists and their hideouts in the country. The execution of convicted terrorists, establishment of special trail courts, activation of National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), choking of terrorists’ financing and creation of a dedicated counter-terrorism force were some of the immediate measures in this direction.
However, despite the resolve shown by the national leadership, the National Action Plan lacked an effective implementation and execution resulting in despair and despondency in the people in general and terrorist victims in particular. The existing three-tire structure in the shape of NAP Committee chaired by the Prime Minister, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and Provincial Apex Committees are ample institutional mechanism to implement the National Action Plan. Besides, committees on Money Laundering, Counter-terrorism and Madrissah reforms can supplement effective implementation. However, the overlapping role of National Anti-Terrorist Force, lack of mechanism to control foreign funding to the religious seminaries, resistance to the registration and reforms of existing Madrissah in the country, continued political activities of ban outfits under official patronage, and lack of effective intelligence coordination along with lukewarm response of the federal and provincial governments are hampering the national resolve to face the ‘existential threat.’
Extraordinary situations require extraordinary responses. In 1973 Middle Eastern war, one of the countries was threatened with extinction; the prime minster called the Army and Intelligence chiefs and put all the national resources at their disposal to meet the challenge. In 2015, when the ‘Islamic State’ (IS) terrorists burnt alive the Jordanian pilot, the Jordanian King Abdullad-II, himself flew the aircraft and led the air squadron to show his resolve to wipe-out the terrorists. These examples show the extreme resolve of national leadership, leading from the front, to face the threats.
Pakistan is in a state of war and in war there are special provisions to meet the threats. Therefore, besides a committed political and administrative resolve, full mobilisation of national resources and effective media campaign, following immediate measures are
required to be taken on priority bases for an effective implementation of National Action Plan;
- A ‘national security emergency’ for three months
- NAP implementation under one single ‘operational’ command
- Securing and sealing of national borders with the help and cooperation of neighbouring states
- A ‘combing up’ military operation in coordination with Afghanistan in the Pak-Afghan bordering areas
- Sealing of provincial borders to restrict the intra-provincial movement of terrorists
- Indiscriminate flushing/elimination of terrorist, their harbourers and sympathisers across Pakistan
- Optimum functioning of NACTA
- Provisions of funds, training and equipment to the security forces
- Stoppage of foreign funding and regulation of Madaris
These are elements of policy framework and the tactical/operational level of implementation mechanism can be worked out by the practitioners and executioners.
On the long term bases, a Comprehensive National Security Policy (CNSP) is direly needed. At present three different organizations are engaged in this activity; Ministry of Interior, National Defence University and Joint Services Headquarters. Though their work may overlap but three versions would help in to formulate a visionary CNSP for Pakistan. The proposed CNSP should be debated and scrutinized by all the stakeholders, and presented to the Parliament, where it should be adopted as a consensus national document for effective implementation, regardless of the change of governments.
The existence of the country and its people is at stake and the national leadership owe it to the nation to meet this challenge heads on. To provide a bright, peaceful and prosperous future to the next generation of Pakistan, the political and military leadership have to take bold, effective and proactive decisions lest they become disappointed and disillusioned.
This is part of the paper presented at the CPGS Conference on National Action Plan: Policy to Practice held in February 18 2015.